Unsolved Murders

Kate Ward

Age: 50

Sex: female

Date: 14 Jul 1920

Place: Clovelly Villa, Cranbourne Road, Waterloo, Ashton-under-Lyne

Source: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

Kate Ward was found lying in a pool of blood on her kitchen floor with her hands tied behind her back with a piece of clothes line and a quantity of towelling tied around her mouth some of which was inside her mouth.

A bloodstained iron bar and hammer were found nearby.

Kate Ward was seen at about 7.55am on the day of her murder by the step-daughter of a neighbour who ran a shop next door. The neighbour said that Kate Ward and her husband would generally come in every day, the husband generally at about 9.30am followed by Kate Ward around mid-day. The step-daughter said that when Kate Ward came in at 7.55am she appeared cheerful and asked for some milk. She said that when Kate Ward came in she said to her, 'Isn't it a lovely day? Aren't you glad to be alive? and said that Kate Ward replied, 'I am that'.

A sister of the step-daughter from next door said that she had been alone in the house all day except for when her sister came home for dinner and said that at about 8am she heard someone breaking coal and thought that it was Kate Ward. She said then at about 11.45am she heard a slight noise which sounded like someone exclaiming 'Oh'.

Later at 11.30am an insurance agent from Lord street, Ashton said that he went to the back kitchen door of Kate Ward's house and called out, 'Hello!' but got no answer. He said that the door was slightly opened but he could not open it as it appeared to be on a chain although he was later told that there was no chain. He said that there was no covering at all on the lower part of the door and said, 'I glanced across the room expecting to see Mrs. Ward coming through. I did not see the body on the floor'. He did say that as he was leaving the house and was near the front door he did think he heard a sound like a breath come from the the lean-to shed but said that he did not renew his efforts to get into the house as he didn't think that it was important at the time.

Shortly after at about noon a gasmeter inspector from Winter Street, Hurst Brook, said he went to the house and knocked at the front door and when he got no reply he went to the back door where he met a peddler coming out and said that the pedlar said to him, 'There's no one in'. He said that when he got there and tried the door it was not ajar. He said that he called again at 1.30pm that afternoon but still got no reply.

The pedlar referred to was later identified and said that he called at the house at about 1.10pm but got no reply.

When Kate Ward's husband later returned and found her body he went off to his neighbours who said that he seemed greatly excited, waving his arms about and shouting, 'They have killed my wife'.

The neighbour that had gone back to the house with the husband said that as they went in the husband said, 'Whatever shall I do? She was the best partner a man ever had', as well as saying, 'They have taken my money and her jewels'.

When the neighbour went into the kitchen he said that he saw Kate Ward in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor with her hands crossed and tied with a thick string or rope. He said her battered head was covered with a towel and that the rope had been fastened around her neck. He said, 'There were distinct finger marks on a white ironing sheet, while a hammer and an iron bar were lying on the table. Marks on the hammer suggested that some person had picked it up a second time whilst having blood-stained hands. On going upstairs we found that a large safe had been opened and documents were scattered about. When he called me, Kate Ward's husband stated that he had expected to see his wife in town during the day, and on returning at about helf-past eight in the evening was unable to obtain admission by the back door, and entered with his own key by the front.'

The police said that Kate Ward had evidently been attacked whilst ironing.

The husband was charged with causing her death and held in custody but later acquitted at the Coroner's inquest on19 August 1920.

Clovelly Villa was a semi-detached villa.

Generally Kate Ward would help her husband in the shop but on the Wednesday she had stayed at home to attend to domestic duties.

At the inquest the police scouted the idea of it being a genuine robbery saying that about £330 of jewellery and plate was left lying about, not scattered about, but methodically placed near the open safe in the house and that the drawers in the sideboards had been opened, but the contents not disturbed.

The husband gave a detailed of his movements on the day which the police later found to be correct.

The Coroner said that the robbery seemed to be the work of an amateur rather than a professional thief, and that the whole 'robbery' seemed to be a complete camouflage but added that it was hardly conceivable that Kate Ward's husband would have gone about the day as he did if he had been guilty and added that mere suspicion was not sufficient to convict.

The jury returned an open verdict and the husband was acquitted.

Kate Ward's husband was a confectioner with a large way of business in Stanbury Street in Ashton.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.


see Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Thursday 22 July 1920

see Cornishman - Wednesday 25 August 1920

see Western Daily Press - Tuesday 17 August 1920

see Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 19 August 1920

see Leeds Mercury - Tuesday 17 August 1920

see Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 16 July 1920